What implications does the research about early reading intervention have for understanding late-emerging reading disabilities, students who are learning English, and teacher preparation?

Question:  What implications does the research about early reading intervention have for understanding late-emerging reading disabilities, students who are learning English, and teacher preparation?

Answer: We feel very confident that overall early intervention in reading using an RTI model improves the reading development of children overall. Many students respond so well to these early interventions that they may need no other assistance in reading through second or third grade. But few studies have followed children who have received early intervention in an RTI model as long as third or fourth grade and that’s where the research base is a bit shakier. One of the issues around students in third and fourth grade is the increasing emphasis on vocabulary and reading comprehension, as what we measure when we think about reading development. The kinds of screens that we use for kindergarten and first graders are so focused on isolated skills that students may well be missed by these early screening efforts. So research needs to continue into third and fourth grade, where traditionally students with reading disability have been identified so that we make sure that the kinds of early interventions that appear to be effective are indeed helping those students who in past decades would have been referred for eligibility in the field of learning disabilities, seeded in reading.

Another area that we need to consider are the students who are learning English, which includes an ever increasing base of students in our public schools. Research is suggesting that including students who are English learners in models of RTI can be effective for those students. It can also help school systems differentiate between students whose reading difficulty is seeded in their difficulty with learning English, from those students whose reading difficulty is not just in learning English, but also in learning to read. Another area that needs considerable research and attention is the area of late-emerging reading disability. These are students whose reading disability is not so much centered in the early isolated skills such as phonemic awareness and letter sound correspondence, but more in the areas of vocabulary and reading comprehension, and these students may be missed by the kinds of screening devices we use for students in the very early years. The reason that this is so important is that traditionally in the last couple of decades, students have been identified as having a reading disability in third or fourth grade and most studies of responsiveness to intervention have not followed students that far in their schooling. The bulk of their research is in kindergarten through second grade.

What this means as we prepare teachers is that we need to consider developmental reading as part of our teacher preparation program. If teachers have a firm grounding in developmental reading in the stages of reading development, in the kinds of skills students tend to learn early on, and the ones that occur later, then when a student in first or second or third grade is having difficulty with reading, the classroom teacher will have a better understanding of what may be interfering with that child’s reading development. By having that kind of understanding, then teachers can begin to differentiate their instruction and have a more likely target for the kinds of interventions that are likely to be of assistance for those students. If teachers lack an overall grounding in reading development, that’s something we can develop through professional development and several studies suggested that ongoing professional development can improve what teachers do in the classroom and just by improving general class reading development, some studies suggested that we can improve the proportion of poor readers by about 10 percent, so it’s well worth our time and energy.

Developed By: 
National Center on Intensive Intervention